Last week, a huge box showed up at my door bearing…(wait for it) tons and tons of goat cheese. For a chèvre lover like myself, this felt very much like a fantasy, especially since it happened to be from Cypress Grove, the Northern Cali cheesemaker behind my favorite Humboldt Fog selection. Anyway… I knew I had to get cooking to make sure that none of this delicious cheese went to waste, so I started dreaming up ideas for appetizers to make this holiday season. Now, in my book, there are a few qualifications for a “perfect” appetizer for entertaining this time of year. First, it needs to feel special and indulgent: this is the holidays after all. Second, it needs to be incredibly simple to prepare. With all the multitasking required to get a meal like Thanksgiving on the table, the last thing I need to be dealing with is an appetizer that needs a lot of my attention. And last, it should include ingredients that reflect the season’s bounty. Enter pears, cranberries and vanilla bean. Although poached pears are a classic holiday dessert, I really love their natural sweetness paired with creamy goat cheese, and presented on a tray with bread and crackers for sopping up the syrupy goodness, they become a gorgeous first course. I poached these with a mixture of honey, vanilla beans, orange juice and lots of fresh cranberries for holiday color. One bite of these, and soon I devoured an entire Sunday lunch of pears and cheese… not that I’m complaining. Keep reading for the recipe and cheese pairings.
Pears and goat cheese are amazing on their own, but poaching the pears with honey and spices brings out a sweetness that borders on indulgent. Other pears and cheese combos that I love? On a panini served next to butternut squash soup…in a quesadilla drizzled with a bit of honey… haven’t tried them on a pizza yet, but I think it has potential.
I tried these with a few different Cypress Grove cheeses; all were good, but I think the winner was the “Purple Haze” mixed with fennel and lavender.
Serve each pear with the cranberry syrup spooned over the top on a “mini cheese plate” with crackers and goat cheese…
…or split them open and plate them with a dollop of goat cheese on each pear half.
Cranberry Poached Pears with Goat Cheese
*these would also be great for dessert, served with a bit of creme fraiche!
- 8 small pears, peeled (I used Seckel)
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- zest of 1 orange
- juice of 1 orange
- 4 tablespoons honey
- 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
- 2 cups fresh cranberries
- 1/4 cup dried cranberries (optional)
- soft goat cheese (not crumbled)
- Place pears in a saucepan large enough to hold them snugly. Add sugar, orange zest and honey. Using the tip of a paring knife, scrape vanilla seeds into pan, and toss in pod. Add enough water to barely cover the pears. Bring to a boil, stirring until sugar has dissolved. Reduce heat, and simmer gently until pears are tender, about 8 minutes.
- Add fresh cranberries, and simmer until cranberries are soft but not mushy, about 3 minutes more.
- Use a spoon to transfer pears to a dish. Spoon cranberries and syrup around pears. Add dried cranberries. Let cool for 15 minutes. Cover, and refrigerate overnight, or serve at room temperature.
- Before serving, remove vanilla bean. Transfer pears to plates with some of the cranberries, syrup, cheese and crackers or bread.